On May 31, 2018, the Jerusalem Post published Teaching Israelis about China based on a survey conducted in 2017 investigating The attitudes and perceptions of Israeli’s towards China, its people, and the Belt & Road Initiative. Led by SIGNAL, the project is the first of its kind conducted in Israel. The study was funded by China’s Ministry of Education and was initiated by SIGNAL Fellow, Dr. Li Wei, faculty and Research Fellow at the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies (IMES) at Northwest University in central China where SIGNAL has had an Israel studies Program since 2013.
In recent years, Israel has invested heavily in developing the economic, diplomatic and academic dimensions of its relationship with China. The investment has paid off, as Israel-China relations are strengthening while China rises on the world stage.
Moving forward, it is in Jerusalem’s interest to deepen the connection with Beijing. However, it’s legitimate to wonder if the cultural gaps and different histories render such an interest impractical. At first glance, the cultural and historical barriers present serious obstacles to establishing a more profound connection between Israel and China.
This initial view is, however, incorrect. There are profound cultural and historical parallels between the Chinese and Israeli experiences that, if thoughtfully cultivated over time, can be used to deepen the connection between the Israeli and Chinese peoples and to buttress the Israel-China relationship.
Consider the following: only the Chinese and Israelis can claim to be inheritors of traditions that date back to the ancient world but have endured through the present. There are other ancient peoples in the world, for instance, the Persians. But in the case of Persia, the introduction of Islam caused a fundamental disruption within Persian history. Persian culture before Islam, and Persian culture after Islam, are different in kind.